Getting Lippy

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Getting Lippy, Anthropomorphic Characters Are a Small Logical Leap Series

The power of speech. Something many take for granted. So much so that the basics of the creation of sound often escape common knowledge. Write anthropomorphic works and I promise you this is a remark you will see, “But they can’t speak without lips!”

epicfail

“They said what? … no, no!”

Alright, for the purposes of the second entry in my series we will ignore the other forms of communication: body cues, sign language, writing. Today we’re talking about the ability of audible speech. I hope you have come with a sound mind, pun very much intended.

Inside the Voice Box

Most of us talk without thinking about how it is actually done. We developed the ability so long ago it’s subconscious. Inside our necks we have an organ called the larynx. This structure controls several things, including closing off your lungs from food when you swallow. But it also suspends the vocal chords. Controlling the air flow through these flaps of tissue is a large part of speech and pitch. What you hear is the vibrations of air. We’re basically wind instruments.

Most mammals have a version of this organ. Dogs have one very similar to our own, note the two diagrams provided. The parts correspond.

 

Birds have an organ called a syrinx. A bit more on that later. Reptiles, amphibians and even some fish have a simplified version, some utilize bone ridges to produce vocalizations. However some animals have opted to be voiceless and have evolved beyond the basic organ in favor of other adaptations. Yes, this does make it trickier to support the concept of the latter obtaining speech. The case is the strongest in mammals and birds. Remember, with anthropomorps we are talking about a fictional world with either a fantasy suspension of disbelief or a sci-fi explanation of genetic alterations or alien life.

Lip Locked

Dogs can’t talk, they don’t have lips.”

Well, there’s two things wrong with that statement. One, dogs most certainly have lips. I know, I have painted enough smiling dog lips as a pet portrait artist. Phoenix shows off her sweet smile, that fur-less flesh looking a bit like an earthworm along her teeth is her lower lip.

PhoenixLips

“You like my smile, no?”

Ashenpaw, my late border collie, disproves another aspect I have heard. That they can’t from shapes enough to effect sound. Oh yeah? Howling allows a lot of phonetic differences. And this old bad boy would grumble “momma” if I was late getting his dinner ready. There are quite a few videos online of dogs mimicking human speech, albeit limited by their real world physicality.

Ash111812

“I want my dinner now!”

Thing number two that’s wrong with the statement:Ventriloquism is proof that you don’t have to move your lips to speak, it’s merely easier to do so. Speech is largely the placement of the tongue in the mouth, where the tongue strikes the teeth (if at all), and internal mouth cavity shape with air flow. I am not a ventriloquist, but I love watching skilled performers like Jeff Dunham. Watching shows like this prove that even though the average person uses lip shape to form words, it is possible to produce speech without them.

Moot point though in animals that have lips anyway.

Stiff Lipped!

Of course birds don’t have any form of lip. Ever heard a parrot speak? That torpedoes any notion of lips being a requirement for speech.

Parrot

“Did you hear the one about the saltine?”

Parrots mimic human speech and other sounds through using the syrinx, an organ similar to the mammalian larynx, however the avian version is located at the fork between the lungs. This means they can actually produce two different sounds simultaneously by controlling the flow individually. Pretty neat. Parrots are capable of mimicking complete vocal patterns and are capable of forming associations if the context is strong enough, such as saying “Hello” when the phone rings. Some can form quite the vocabulary … including a colorful one if someone likes to cuss in their earshot.

As to why they copy so many different sounds including power tools, car horns, etc, the current theory is that in wild parrots could use the different vocalizations to determine where a potential mate was from and use that information for selection. It’s also recently been discovered that parrots have individual names for one another. There are unique sound combos used by parents to address individual chicks that they keep throughout their lives. Yes—this is in wild parrots.

Next time you hear a parrot screeching, it might be the avian equivalent of, “Johnny! Get your tail back here right now!”

Next in the series, Thinkin’ It Through

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Symbols that Build, Symbols that Break

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BardicSummons

“When you look what do you see? … don’t fear to look deeper.” ~Ealaidh

Welcome back.

I just finished the most amusing discussion with my human friend about symbols. We’ve all heard that old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, likewise a symbol can embody complex ideals.

Take the kenaz for example:

Kenaz

This rune is vital to the slannic bards. Displayed on necklaces, it tells others that we serve our race as lore-keepers, judges, and entertainers. Even the material the pendant is made from is significant. A novice bard’s is made from leather. A master bard’s, carved from wood. If one is a Traveler, or a true-master bard selected by the god Taliesin, the kenaz is comprised of a special metallic stone imbued with special properties.

What special properties, you ask? Well, all a Traveler need do is think of an instrument and the kenaz becomes it. Whether you want a drum, a tin-whistle, a harp… or even in modern times, yes–an electric guitar. It’s a convenient way of ensuring we aren’t burden by an veritable orchestra of instruments.

You can imagine, wandering on footpaw that would become quite heavy.

There is a danger to wearing the kenaz as well. For when everyone knows that you are a source of logic and reason, you quickly become a target during upheaval. There was a time when we Travelers had little choice but to cast a guise over our runes for our very survival.

Like my experience with the mixtured nature of symbols, my human friend reflected on a story of a man who became defined by them. She has been recording some lost chapters of his life for the world to come to know the core of this man.

From his birth, Erik hid his face behind a mask.

PhantomMask

He had every reason, for despite his extraordinary gifts, he was disfigured and the world was reviled his monstrous face. But his spirit craved beauty. He collected things that fascinated him. He accumulated the most astonishing skills to build devices and buildings that left onlookers in awe.

None of it mattered. The world only saw the mask– the monster beneath.

Weary of humanity’s game and heartsick after the loss of his greatest treasure, Erik exiled himself and tried to begin a-new. Only in America he found that his strange mask was not the only barrier.

Here he was an immigrant! Though he may have brought a meager fortune with him, the shine of the coin mattered nothing. He was an immigrant to be confined to the Bowery ward for that reason above any other.

This new world underestimated his ambition to create. Fettered by society’s bias Erik put his boundless spirit into one goal–sharing his visions with the world through his architecture.

Against the odds he earned enough to commission the one thing he would need to show the elite he was a gentlemen. His signet ring.

ErikSignetSilverOnline

The silver compass: a tool gifted to him by his stone-mason mentor. The most prized possession of an architect essential for creating master works.

The quill: the writing utensil that documented his other passion, music.

And of course his one and only initial: E. For Erik possessed no sir-name. Despite this, he claimed the status of a gentleman by his own merit.

Mask and signet. Shield and pennant. Sometimes they protect us, sometimes they define us. Sometimes they endanger or even fight us!

For Erik, his symbols have been all of these… if you like to read his story, my human friend has been recording it here: Nightingale’s Odyssey

Until next time, my friends.

We ever remember

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EalaidhCampfire

We’ve been waiting for you. Come sit by the bonfire for a spell. I bid you welcome.” Ealaidh, the Traveler, reclines on her elbow, her fingers tap a rhythm on her knee. The fox’s half-closed eyes idly watch the silhouettes celebrating in joyous abandon as you join in.

An eerie whistle from inside the heated wood carries above the chattering of the gathered shire. Shadows distort the features of the excited slan. Young and old, the generations gather in a cacophony that mirrored all of life. The shire-beasts of all kinds dance around you without a thought of the morrow.

Ealaidh swallows a mouthful of mulled wine before offering a mug to you. “Drink deep, for tomorrow the road beckons onward, and nothing is promised in the hidden bends.”

A little wildcat whelp skips up to the fire. The flames illuminate her a brilliant orange. Her father ambles behind, leaves tangled in his fur and the gleam of sweat on his fur.

Her bright eyes turn the fox’s way. “Da, there’s the true-master bard right there. Do you think she’ll tell tonight?”

He shrugs. “Little one, our shire has a bard. You’ve heard lots of stories.”

The whelp shakes her head and tumbles down into the grass before the reclining Ealaidh. “Yes Da, we’ve heard lotsa stories, but they say that she shows them.”

Ealaidh winks.

Is it true? Can you make air art?”

The bard laughs and tussles the whelp’s hair. “Air art. What a fanciful description of my skill, young one.”

Can you?”

Paint illusions of the tales of old? Why yes. That is my gift. And on this magical night when the veil has thinned between realms you have but to request of me. I, as a Traveler, am ever at your service.”

Ealaidh bows her head in servitude sending the whelp into a fit of laughter into her paws. “Da, she bowed to me.”

He takes a seat beside you. His daughter plops into the hollow and nestles in. A moment later his wife snuggles in beside them. Slan by slan the entire shire gather in the reach of the fire, drawn by the promise of something to behold. The illusionary talents of their legendary guest. Ealaidh did not miss the glint of firelight off the local bard’s runic necklace. No malice in his eyes, only awe.

Ealaidh rose into a seated position. Addressing the gregarious whelp, she sets her mug aside. “Well, what tale would you like to hear?”

The wildcat’s ears twist as she chews on a claw. “How did all this get here?”

Her father’s paws smooth down her fur. “You know the shire’s story, sweetie.”

Not here.” She points at the ground.

Ealaidh holds a paw up. “I know what she means. A broad vision for such a wee-little beastie. But if she wishes to know how the world came to be, then this eve she shall learn. And not some vague summary … but from the deities themselves.”

Her eyes open wide. “You’ve met the gods and goddesses?”

I have stood within their realm, many of the bardic circle have.” She brings her paws together. “Sgath herself shared with me the beginning. If you will journey with me, look …”

In the spaces between the flames the shimmer of images dance at Ealaidh’s bidding.

In the beginning there were deities.

Their immaterial realm was of pure magic and the deities were the divine masters. At a mere thought anything could be created … or destroyed. Each god or goddess had their own unique talents. No one was ruler over any other. For mortals it is the most splendid of dreams to have ones every whim at their fingertips.

Yet, forever is a long time. A long time with nothing tangible to show for it. Even the deities were not immune to the grind of time. In their realm … everything was transient.

Sgath painted with shadows, unsatisfied with her efforts. There was no substance in these creations.

Belenus leaned over her shoulder, running his fingers down the dark fabric of her tunic. “I know what you need, Sgath. Light always adds depth to the shadows.” With that he spread his arms wide and a great ball of light blazed.

There is no point to this.” She waved her work away in a wisp of darkness. “In all these eons what have any of us done that has remained?”

He winked. “Made little gods and goddesses. Is that what you need? I would be willing to fulfill your every desire.”

She pushed his face away.

Well, if not me, then perhaps another. Tannus has been a tempest lately, perhaps he would be sufficient to quell your desire.”

I am not in the mood. There are enough of us wandering around and creating dreams and mischief. Perhaps … we need something different to watch. Something besides one another.”

Addanc, the great serpent, reared up to his full height and hissed. “Forgive me, I could not help but be drawn by the heat of Sgath’s plight. I agree that perhaps we have squandered our gifts for too long. Alone, we can do no more than fashion wispy visions. But together, perhaps we can make something that lasts. Not here. Not within our plain. I propose we try our magic in another.”

Belenus eyed the serpent. “What are you thinking?”

It is not myself alone, others have spoken as well. Tired of twisting mere clouds to their whims. They wish to try something more permanent beyond our borders. A plain where we can set things in motion and watch what happens.”

Sgath chuckled. “I hear a little of Io’s ego in those words.”

Yes.” Addanc’s tongue ticked his fangs. “He is among those impatiently waiting. It is agreed, without the light,” he looked to Belenus, “and the dark,” he now eyed Sgath, “there is nothing. It would be hopeless. What say you?”

Belenus and Sgath could not see where there would be harm in trying. After all, what was created could be destroyed.

They summoned Aerten and asked her to hold open a portal to another plain.

Nothing. It was a great void.

Belenus chuckled. “Sgath, you should like this place. It’s your favorite color.”

Ahhh, but what is dark with light?”

With a smile he brought forth a ball of light and threw it into the void. On its journey, sparks shot off in all directions. The sun and the stars took up their place.

Addanc slithered through the portal carrying clouds in his coils. Sliding his massive body into a ball, he bit his own tail. He squeezed the clouds into a vast mass beneath. Three times three he slithered around the ball. When at last he loosened his grip the entire surface was awash in waves. A brilliant ball shining blue in the star strewn sky. His tail whipped the earth and it spun on its axis, carried in a great circle around the sun.

Tannus eyed the creation and shook his head. “This will not work, Addanc. Unless all can swim as you. And I daresay that was not how Cernunnos nor Io saw it.”

You have an idea how to improve it?” panted the serpent. “Have at it, Windbag.”

Without another word Tannus blew a mighty wind upon the earth. Clouds drifted up into the sky carrying moisture with them. Dry land emerged from the depths. Over his shoulder the rest of the deities gazed down at this raw potential with hungry eyes.

Morgay and Amaethon leapt down onto the land. Together they danced. Where their feet touched the ground plants shot up. Magog took immense handfuls of land and pushed them up into mountain ranges. In the valleys left behind Latis scooped up water to fill the lakes and rivers.

Sgath peered down at this beautiful landscape and admired it in the light of the sun. However, when it turned to the darkness, not even her eyes could see. She beckoned Arainrhod to her side. “My soft-hearted daughter. Would you be so kind as to watch over the earth in the night?”

Arainrhod embraced her mother and drifted down into the night sky. Her silvery hair cast a glow onto the dark land. Now the terrain played out in soft light and shadow.

Both Cernunnos and Io reached out over the land.

Stand back, scaley one!” Cernunnos tipped his horned head to shadow the earth. “I will show you how this is done!” All manner of wild beasts sprung forth from the land. Beasts that roved on all fours, or swam in the waters, or flew through the sky. Unicorns and gryphons, even the mighty horiequine roamed the world.”

You call that life?” Io snorted, the scales on his snout twisting in disdain. “Watch this.” Concentrating hard, he flexed his claws until from the mountains burst forth creatures in his likeness. Dragons. Dragons of various colors, and even some smaller kin.

For a time the deities watched the world turn. They watched the creatures bounding after one another in the battle for life. All the while Cernunnos and Io made jests about one anothers contribution. Io flicked his claws in frustration and from a rocky cairn the geilt crawled forth. He had traded the dragons vast size and made them smaller, walking on their hind limbs. The geilt were wiser, forging great fortresses of stone in their mountain outcrops.

Cernunnos scowled at this new development. The dragons had already been dominating his own creatures. Many dragons had destroyed entire valleys with their natural talents. So he put forth a challenge to his own creations. Five beasts mastered his call by working together. A wolf, a wildcat, a badger, a bear, and a rat. When his horns touched their heads the beasts rose up onto their hind legs and become the first slan. They grew plentiful on the earth, settling in shires nestled in the forested lands. Guardians, he had called them. To watch over the world.

Taliesin had witnessed all this transpire. There was no force that would keep him from playing with the other deities hard work. In the shape of a bright blue wren he flitted about, spying on the geilt, whispering into the ears of the slan. And in time he knew what he would give to the world.

For all the gifts that we have given to this mortal plain, this Earth, they do not remember from one to the next. Cernunnos, Io, your creations are lovely, but they live in the moment. They keep not a memory of the days before.”

You cannot change that,” Io huffed. “Besides, it wouldn’t matter.”

Ahh, but it does. And since you have slighted me, your children will be slower to learn this lesson. They will have the slan to thank. Just watch.”

From the branch of a tree, the little blue wren sang. His music drifted to the ears of a slannic youth. Some bent to his will, and answered his call.

The first bard was forged.

Came song, came story, came history. Or else none would know these words or see these visions.

The deities gazed down upon the Earth watching how each day played out. Their fingers nudging at their whim. Fate is just the will of a bored god or goddess. It has been so since the dawn of time, and with their hunger for entertainment will remain so until the very end.

The shimmering outlines vanish into the night as Ealaidh lapses into silence. Shire-beasts star with wide eyes at the radiating light of the fire.

At long last, the shire’s bard places his paws over his heart and bows his head. “By the immortal words.”

Ealaidh twists her ears back and closes her eyes. She returns his gesture and completes, “We ever remember.”

She opens her eyes and looks to you. “So tell me, how did you think the world was made?”

Creatures of the Fireside

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Stones

Greetings, I bid you welcome.

I know I am not human, but don’t be alarmed by my appearance. Feel free to take a place beside my fire for a spell or two. The evening is crisp. The air alive with the songs of the nightlife.You had the good fortune to stumble upon the path of a Traveler.

You say you don’t know what I mean? Well, that comes as no surprise. When I met recently with my human friend (the owner of this blog) she and I spoke long about how time strips the fabric of lore threadbare. That is why she kindly bestowed her blog onto me. It saddened her that creatures of the fireside like me are long forgotten … well, unless you will sit awhile.

You will? Fantastic!

Let me introduce myself, commonly I go by the name of my birth, Gorach. To keep things simple, let us just say that I am a Slan, a creature of an ancient race. As I mentioned I am a Traveler. To be more specific, I am a member of a god-chosen Circle of bards that serve as immortal keepers of folklore, or true-master bards. Before you ask, it’s not nearly as prestigious as it sounds, skulking in the shadows. But oh the stories I can tell! Heroes and villains, magic and deities, unity and division.

In time I shall. But for now, by this fireside let me explain why I am here now. Let me explain why I need your ear. Ages have come and gone in endless succession, a veritable parade of upheaval into erosion. I have watched cultures rise and fall. I have been witness to great triumphs and abysmal failures. My own voice has sung into the stones the ballads of calamities great and small. Yet for eons these tales have moldered. Only accessed by the bards themselves, we few who survived only to become hermits of time captive to our hourglass fate.

As the stones roll on, history so often repeats itself in legend and lore. One painful lesson after another is rubbed raw by the actions of a new generation. Tend to me now, for I, despite the laws forbidding me so, shall be silenced no longer. The death of knowledge is a thing more terrible than any fate.

I hold fear for this age. So much is lost. So many cling tightly to their knowledge and refuse to share it even at the risk of its extinction. Ages ago I stood before the Circle of Travelers and declared it was folly to lock away the lore for any reason. Even for the protection of our precious magic, the target of eradication by those of our own race who dreaded it, denial was a price to harsh to pay. The others disagreed. We jealously guarded the secrets.

The Slannic race is now gone. All save us few chosen.

I ask you to heed the warning. I know, it seems silly listening to a creature you would call nothing more than a fox. Childish to pander to the pleas of something that looks like she stepped from a fairy tale book. After all, what would I know. Everyone knows that the only minds capable of rational thought are human.

Aha, did I catch your attention there? Well, listen to the chatter around you. You will hear that I speak true. It is common knowledge. But I assure you, it is false. Just because your eyes fail to recognize the extraordinary does not mean it doesn’t exist. Denial does not reduce something to the realm of oblivion simply because we wish it so. That, my friend, I can safely assure you.

There are so many things hiding in the dark edges of this world that no one ever talks about because of what they are. Not the tidy little pieces that can be explained. Oh no. The figments of which I speak are of the fantastic kind. The visions witnessed only by those who believe in dreams.

Tell me, is there room in your world for something like me? If so, then settle in. These old eyes have seen eons yarns to spin to the willing ear.

I have waited for thousands of generations to break the silence and share the truth.